News Column

Mayor to ask City Council to spend roads money on IT issues

June 24, 2014

By Monica Mendoza, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

June 24--Colorado Springs' information technology department is in such bad shape the mayor is asking the City Council to fix it using $2 million previously slated for road and technology projects.

Chief of staff Steve Cox on Tuesday will ask the City Council to divert $2 million budgeted for capital improvement projects to pay for new software and hardware in the city's IT department. The department recently has been subject to an internal investigation, its chief left and 10 employee positions were outsourced.

The request comes on the heels of Mayor Steve Bach saying the city has more than $1 billion in capital needs and no money to pay for them.

Bach has floated a possible sales tax increase or bonded debt to help pay for repairs to bridges, roads and stormwater systems.

Bach is asking the council to abandon a road repaving project on Academy Boulevard, a software program to manage court cases, studies on facilities maintenance projects and a capital improvement project and another computer software program. The 2014 budget includes $2 million for those projects.

Cox said the capital improvement projects remain important, but the IT department needs remediation.

"We have to rebuild our network," he said.

Cox would not comment on whether the work was related to the outsourcing of 10 positions or the internal investigation in January.

Ten employees were placed on paid administrative leave in January and eventually were asked to take "reduction in force packages."

The city's former chief of staff Laura Neumann said at the time that the city was investigating a potential security incident.

An internal investigation of the IT department was launched Jan. 27.

In mid-February, the investigation showed there was no breach of city data, Neumann said.

Shortly afterward, deputy chief of information officer Jesse James was put on paid leave and then asked to take a reduction in force package, records show.

In April, IT chief Joe Palmer, who had been on the job for 16 months, was put on paid administrative leave. At the time, Bach said it was a personnel issue and he could not discuss the details.

Palmer stepped down later that month. According to records, he was not paid a severance.

The City Council met in executive session this month to discuss a personnel issue related to an IT employee, but details were not released.

Council President Keith King said he expects a full explanation for the change in budget priorities.

The council spent numerous hours hammering out the city's capital improvement project list during budget hearings in November and heard from a Colorado Springs Municipal Court judge that the court software program was necessary to keep up with the caseload.

"We have to have a full discussion on this and how it all ties together," King said about the IT budget, outsourcing and investigation.

"What is the whole picture here?" he said.

The city's IT department has a $9.7 million budget. Cox said the IT department developed a strategic plan last fall. But the rebuilding of the network was not a request in the 2014 budget.

Cox said that new IT staff members recently discovered problems in the system.

"We wouldn't be in front of council asking them to move money if it wasn't important," Cox said.

Cox said the IT network rebuild would be completed by city staff.

He said the $2 million mostly covers software and hardware.

"This is a matter of priorities," he said.

"We've got to get our network rebuilt."


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Source: Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO)

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